What Does It Mean to be a “Subscription MMO?” July 18, 2014Posted by Wilhelm Arcturus in entertainment, EVE Online, EverQuest II, Lord of the Rings Online, Rift, Sony Online Entertainment, Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Elder Scrolls Online, World of Warcraft.
Tags: Rambling Friday, SuperData Research
I am on the press release list along with a lot of real media outlets, so my inbox is often stuffed with the raw material that is barely recycled for content a lot of places around the web.
I skim through them every day, but don’t bother to mention 99% of them as they tend to be rather thin on things worth talking about.
This morning through there was a press release from SuperData Research pointing at their June factoid report. Lots of little bits of data in that from which you can barely come up with to points to draw a line about anything.
The highlight of the report though was a chart listing out revenues for the top subscription-based MMO titles for 2013, worldwide.
The top spot is unsurprising. WoW, even down to something like 60% of its peak, still rakes in money like no other. Then there are a couple Asian MMOs which you might have heard of if you have been paying close enough attention. Lineage 1 is still NCsoft’s biggest money maker.
And then you come to Star Wars: The Old Republic and Lord of the Rings Online, where you might legitimately ask a question like, “Hey, aren’t those free to play?”
As the title of this post asks, what makes for a subscription MMO these days? Because if we are talking about needing a subscription to play, several of those titles fall off the list immediately.
But if, as the list here suggests, merely offering a subscription option is enough to be called a subscription MMO, then aren’t we missing a title or two.
Specifically, I would expect EverQuest II to make the list. I don’t have any hard data to back up that expectation, but my gut impression of the game is that it ought to be somewhere on the list ahead of Lord of the Rings Online, something that is backed up, in my mind, by the fact that EQII has no problems cranking out expansions and interim content for all ranges of player while LOTRO is publicly giving up on raiders for now and doesn’t seem to be able to scrape it together for an expansion in 2014.
But maybe EQII isn’t doing as well as I thought. Or maybe SOE’s model somehow falls outside of what SuperData considered a subscription MMO. Or, most likely, maybe SOE just didn’t cooperate with SuperData and its information requests. And one could also ask about Final Fantasy XIV.
Otherwise, I am somewhat surprised at where LOTRO ranks. SWTOR is still popular, if not WoW popular, and that its revenue is only 1.65x what Turbine gets for LOTRO seems odd, given the downtrodden way Turbine seems these days. And Rift seems way down the line. But that does seem to mostly line up with the 2013 end of year summary for the Digital Dozen over at The Nosy Gamer. EVE is generally higher on the list than LOTRO, but otherwise it seems about right. Does that give this chart more validity? Or the Digital Dozen?
And, of course, one key item missing from this chart is how much subscription revenue played into the totals listed.
Because the follow up chart points out that subscription revenues have been decreasing since their peak in 2010.
Subscriptions are trending down, while microtransactions are… well… sort of flat really if you look at that line. They are not not rising up sufficiently to off-set the loss of subscription revenue overall, which seems to go against what some cheerleaders for the model would have us believe.
Which might be why we saw a couple of subscription based launches this year. SuperData pulled out the very exact number of 772,374 for The Elder Scrolls Online subscriptions. That would make for a nice revenue stream. WildStar was mentioned, but since it just launched in June, there were no numbers.
I would really like to know how much of the revenue for a game like SWTOR or LOTRO comes from subscribers. If that chart is to be believed, subscriptions still make up most of the revenue.
And what does all of this mean? This isn’t the range of data I would like, but you look at the industry with the data you have, not the data you want. But I am not prepared to go all Massively comment thread, where the trend seems to be “lying liars lie!” for everybody whose pet theory is not supported by the data provided.
Anyway, as noted, the full report is here. If you want more data, you have to pay.
Addendum: Azuriel makes an interesting comparison between the above chart and other MMO data available.
Addendum 2: And Flosch takes the numbers and extrapolates a bit.